Since 1989, Orange County Government has managed a fun and educational program designed to allow citizens to make a positive impact by enhancing the cleanliness of Orange County roads. The Adopt-A-Highway program was conceived in response to roadside littering that was creating an eyesore for residents and visitors to Central Florida.
“It gives residents of Orange County a chance to rid their community of litter,” said Princess Poke-Clarke, citizen services coordinator for Orange County Public Works Department Roads & Drainage Division. “The program is designed to provide businesses, neighborhood organizations and individuals a way to volunteer with the goal of cleaning and beautifying a roadway, while also saving taxpayer dollars. It also promotes fellowship among the sponsoring organization and the community.”
Adopt-A-Highway is managed by the Orange County Public Works Department, Roads & Drainage Division. Public Works is responsible for processing all documentation and coordinating with the various participants, as well as scheduling cleanups, conducting safety meetings and providing the safety vests and trash bags for volunteers to use during the cleanups. The County also picks up the collected litter at specified locations and posts Adopt-A-Highway signs acknowledging the sponsor at the beginning and end of their section of the road.
“Potential sponsors typically call Orange County’s 3-1-1 call center, which helps gather initial information about becoming involved,” explained Poke-Clarke. “There’s a confirmation and approval process, which usually takes 1-2 days to complete upon receipt of a signed agreement from the participant.”
For the Good of the Community
Sponsors are committed to removing litter six times a year for two years on a minimum of half-mile segment of county road right-of-way. They also need to attend a safety meeting given by the highway foreman of the participating maintenance unit. Once the safety meeting is completed, participants arrange and schedule an appropriate litter removal cleanup date with the maintenance unit foreman every eight weeks.
“We have high expectations of what our roads are supposed to look like,” Denise Sedon, assistant general manager of the Hunter’s Creek Community Association said. “Being a part of the program shows our residents we care, and it also keeps up our great relationship with the County.”
The southwest Orlando community has adopted more than one road over the years and considers its involvement beneficial to the growing region.
“With an ever-increasing population and the heavier traffic that comes with that, especially on John Young Parkway, there’s unfortunately more garbage strewn about,” acknowledged Sedon. “Therefore, we need to take responsibility and do our part to keep our roadways clean.”
The Trinity Christian School Junior Beta Club first became an Adopt-A- Highway sponsor in 1991, cleaning a section of Roger Williams Road between 436 and 441. Since then, it has remained active in the program. According to Edith Bentley, band director and Junior Beta Club sponsor, it’s a great way for students to better appreciate the environment in which they live.
“They’re constantly disappointed at how trashy our road is after only a weekend goes by, but they understand that although they can’t force people to be respectful and not litter, they’re still serving the community at large by their efforts,” asserted Bentley. “It’s an opportunity for them to make a difference and teaches them to be civically responsible.”
Over the years, the Adopt-a-Highway program has been successful with cleaning up miles of roadway throughout Orange County, all thanks to caring residents who participate by volunteering their time.
“The time they invest in keeping our roadways clear of debris helps build a better community for all of us,” said Poke-Clarke. “It’s about people caring enough to make a difference.”
If you or your organization are interested in participating in the Adopt-A-Highway Program, contact the Orange County Public Works Department, Roads & Drainage Division at 407-836-7900 or 407-836-3111.